Cruises Paris by Barge: Is This the Most Immersive Way to See the City?

Looking for an immersive experience in Paris? Fling open the curtains of your cabin aboard a charming river barge that saunters along the Marne Canal, and you will find yourself, metaphorically speaking, up to your neck in the river Seine, with the bright lights of the city’s landmarks winking from the opposite bank.

I boarded Raymonde, one of CroisiEurope’s fleet of boats that sail the mighty rivers of Europe, and a few further afield, in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower at Bassin de la Villette.

Friendly and convivial, this is every inch a laid-back house-party boat, with a crew of six to cater for your every whim. The lounge and bar area on the first deck extends to an open-air terrace with bistro tables and a jacuzzi tub, while the extensive top deck is adorned with sun loungers.

Our first night kicked off with a deliciously saucy pre-dinner cabaret show, starring a mesmerising burlesque singer and her flat-cap-wearing band mate, who put a fun twist on classic chansons and La Vie en Rose. It’s enough to inspire an English girl to swap her bullet-proof opaques for fishnets, and to make the boldest of men blush.

The dining room is small enough to be intimate, yet big enough for celebratory gatherings around the elegant table that seats 22 – with floor-to-ceiling windows offering a kaleidoscope of backdrops from Notre-Dame to the Grand Palais.

Dinner was usually an impressive five courses, with menus accommodating market-fresh produce. Mouthwatering amuse bouche followed by salmon tartare, an entrée of duck breast with sauté potatoes, and white-chocolate mousse for dessert was among the most memorable meals.

The wine selection is generous in quality. Star whites included Château Le Sablou Côtes de Bergerac moelleux; Cuvée du Golfe de Saint-Tropez Côtes de Provence rosé and a mighty Le Puy aux Cerfs Saumur Champigny rouge.

We spent the morning of day two cruising along the Canal Saint-Martin, passing through a tunnel and resurfacing near République, to take in views of the Trocadéro and Tuileries gardens and Île Saint-Louis before heading off for a tour of the city’s covered passageways.

Hidden away from noisy boulevards and tourist hubs, these 19th-century arcades are a labyrinth of curio shops and cafés.

Embellished with iron latticework, stained-glass windows and mosaic tiles, they serve as pedestrian shortcuts to the designer hothouses of Shiseido, Jean-Paul Gaultier and Stella McCartney, as well as providing a showcase for artisan jewellers, booksellers and other small traders.

Starting at Galerie de Valois, the passageway of the Palais-Royal, I found a perfumery to fall in love with. For an olfactory punch par excellence, step inside Serge Lutens’ Les Salons du Palais Royal. This house features limited-edition perfumes in exclusively designed glass bottles, including his fabulously named Tubéreuse Criminelle.

The master parfumier’s latest creations are designed to establish a connection between fragrance and literature and open a new path to what he calls an anti-perfume, L’Eau Serge Lutens. Be still my beating heart.

The 10 best budget hotels in Paris

We went on to explore Galerie Vivienne and Passage Choiseul, before squeezing in a little aperitif (check out Lavomatic, a very cool cocktail bar hidden on the first floor of a laundromat in the 10th arrondissement) and a scoot around the Musée d’Orsay before returning for dinner.

For someone enamoured of Paris’s great literary heritage, the guided tour of Saint-Germain-des-Prés on day three of our cruise proved a serious highlight. The famous church and achingly chic boutiques are, of course, a big draw, but the chance to hop around bars and cafés formerly graced by the likes of Sartre offered a taste of existentialism without the angst.

Three of the most celebrated cafés, where the biggest names in art, philosophy, poetry and politics once convened, are within striking distance of one another: Les Deux Magots, Café de Flore and Brasserie Lipp. If you only have time for one, refuel at Deux Magots – the creative melting pot where Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir came to write, Hemingway came to drink and the likes of Verlaine, Mallarmé, Apollinaire and Oscar Wilde debated and mused.

The afternoon saw us whizzing around Paris clocking up Instagram moments. Of all the excursions on offer, touring the city in an open-top vintage 2CV is by far the most fun. One morning a fleet of Smartie-coloured cars collected us at the dock for a three-hour blast along the Champs-Élysées and up to the hilltop Sacre Coeur, stopping for chocolat chaud at Café des Deux Moulins, famed for its star turn in the film Amélie.

A guided cycling tour is another optional extra, but for seasoned cyclists it can prove a rather frustrating stop, start and stop again experience. You can’t help but feel for the guide, for whom the tour must be like trying to herd cats in the syrup of Parisian traffic. Happily, you’re also at liberty to go it alone: a generous stock of bikes is freely available on board.

Europe’s best river cruises

It’s a rare thing to find yourself questioning whether a package is too good to be true. We enjoyed an open bar and refreshments around the clock, all premium quality and included in the price. At the gala dinner on the third night, the chefs rolled out a stunning seven-course menu. “So, there isn’t any cap at all on wines, spirits, coffees?” I asked, probably for the third time. Just checking.

“No, we decided not to make additional charges,” my host reassured me. “The price is all-inclusive and the bar is here for whatever guests want or however much – we do care about their safety and wellbeing regarding drinking, but not about counting the cost.”

Small wonder charters are a booming business: this celebration boat nails the “home-from-home” vibe, with extended family groups accounting for a sizeable chunk of bookings. While you can, of course, book a cabin just for you and your partner on a standard cruise, the ship is a fantastic floating venue for a special-occasion trip booked privately for friends and family.

No matter how enthusiastically you may wish to indulge and imbibe on board, arguably the greatest value for money is in the locations visited. Docking in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower, the illustrious Quai d’Orsay and Quai de Grenelle allows you to bed down in Paris’s premier arrondissements – any seasoned traveller will know how much even a modest hotel room costs in these prime locales.

Raymonde’s 11 cabins are cosy, with comfortable beds and disproportionately, but pleasingly large en-suite bathrooms, bigger than most I’ve seen on board ocean ships. Sleeping semi-submersed creates the sensation of being in a relaxation tank, but once accustomed to the sound of gurgling water and waves splashing at the windows, I found it strangely comforting.

The essentials

A three-night all-inclusive Prestigious Paris cruise on Raymonde costs from £568pp excluding flights. The Saint-Germain-des-Prés and covered walkways tours are included. The 2CV tour costs £158pp and a guided bike tour £73pp (020 8328 1281; croisieurope.co.uk).

This article was written by Natalie Walsh from The Telegraph and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network and sponsored by CroisiEurope.

Luxury Gold to Offer Private Airport Transfer Service

Luxury Gold has announced the addition of a new door-to-door private airport transfer service that’s available on select trips, starting with summer 2018 itineraries. At the beginning of their trip, a car collects guests and their bags right at their front door and transports them directly to their departure airport. Upon arrival at their destination, guests receive the same VIP transfer service to their hotel. At the end of their trip, travelers will be transported back to the departure airport, then greeted by their waiting driver in the arrivals hall at their home airport and escorted back home.

The service is offered through Luxury Gold’s partnership with Tristar Worldwide, one of the world’s leading ground transport providers. Guests travel in a late-model black sedan that’s no more than three years old, driven by an experienced, uniformed professional.

Door-to-door transfers are available on journeys to Europe, Africa, Asia, and India, for guests who live within a 50-mile radius of a qualifying international airport in the United States. Guests who live outside the 50-mile radius will receive a credit to their booking and are responsible for their own airport transport. A maximum of three guests are allowed in the vehicle, with one suitcase and one carry-on per person. No additional stops and/or drop offs are permitted en route to the airport, and a gratuity is included.

Luxury Gold offers a collection of journeys to destinations all over the world. The customizable itineraries include private tours, small-group excursions, “off limits” visits to landmark sites outside of regular hours, and stays in luxury hotels.

This story is sponsored and originally appeared on www.travelagentcentral.com.

The Napa Valley Wine Train Adds One More Quattro Vino Tour

The Napa Valley Wine Train has announced the continued expansion of its Quattro Vino Tours, which will now include the Famiglia Tour as its fourth journey. Joining the current tours – Legacy, Estate and Collective – the Famiglia Tour will offer a culinary and wine adventure with stops at three Napa Valley wineries including Silverado Vineyards, Whitehall Lane Winery, and Grgich Hills Estate aboard a renovated lounge car. Plus, for a limited time, guests can enjoy an exclusive kick-off rate of $299 when booking the Famiglia Tour.

With the tour’s focus on family, The Napa Valley Wine Train’s new Famiglia Tour partners with top family-run wineries. Established in 1981 by Ron and Diane Miller, Silverado Vineyards has been family-owned by the Millers for three generations. After taking a luxury shuttle from the train, passengers will experience views of Napa Valley and the Stags Leap District from the winery’s stone terrace, taste a selection of rare Silverado Vineyards wines and learn about the storied estate.

Located in St. Helena, Whitehall Lane Winery is a family-owned winery that was founded in 1979, but the history of the soil cultivation dates back two centuries. The Leonardini family of San Francisco became the owners of the estate in 1993, updating the winemaking methods, instituting a new barrel-aging program and continuing to source the finest vineyards. After an introduction to Whitehall Lane’s winemaking process in its Estate Gardens, guests will enjoy a private tour and a flight of high-end wines.

Grgich Hills Estate was founded in 1977 by Miljenko “Mike” Grgich and Austin Hills of the Hills Bros. coffee company after Grgich’s 1973 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay won at the 1976 Paris Tasting. Violet Grgich, Mike Grgich’s daughter, now manages the winery and is continuing its legacy of family ownership. The Famiglia Tour guests will hear about Miljenko “Mike” Grgich’s journey to becoming a renowned Napa Valley winemaker, explore the historic grounds and cellars, and sample exclusive wines primarily crafted for club members.

The other Quattro Vino Tours:

  • The Legacy Tour includes tastings and tours at Robert Mondavi, Charles Krug and V. Sattui
  • The Estate Tour includes tastings and tours at Domain Chandon, Hall and Inglenook
  • The Collective Tour includes tastings and tours at Raymond, Beringer and St. Supéry

The Quattro Vino tours begin with a sparkling wine tasting, followed by a four-course Napa Valley-style meal curated by the Napa Valley Wine Train’s Executive Chef Donald Young, and tastings at three of Napa’s iconic wineries on each tour. After departing from the station at 10:15 a.m., guests embark on a six-hour, 36-mile round-trip journey from the historic town of Napa to the three premier wineries aboard a 1950s-era lounge car, arriving back at the train station at 4:15 p.m.

Tickets for each of the Quattro Vino tours start at $352 per person and include train fare, a four-course Napa Valley-style meal, and tours and tastings at the prominent wineries. When booking the Famiglia Tour, guests can call or make a reservation online to receive a special offer of $299 for a limited time.

Review: Samenda Caldwell

Caprice at the Four Seasons Hotel, Hong Kong — A magnifique feast for the senses

Dining at Caprice, the Four Seasons Hotel Hong Kong’s two-Michelin-starred French fine dining restaurant, is an experience that qualifies as eating of epic sensations.

The Chinoiserie décor itself is in a league of its own. With three massive Czech crystal chandeliers framed by large views overlooking the harbour, leather armchairs and an underlit catwalk-like landing in Yayoi Kusama-yellow from one end of the space to the other, the ambience is vibrant, classy and impactful. The open kitchen even has a curtain of Swarovski crystals perched above the stoves, making you feel like you’re dining within a diamond.

Under the baton of Chef Guillaume Galliot — who was once the youngest sous chef at Singapore’s Raffles Hotel, and formerly at the helm of The Tasting Room by Galliot in Macau, a two-Michelin-starred restaurant — Caprice has maintained its two Michelin star rating since he joined the French institution in 2017. So it follows that when Chef Galliot stopped by our table to say hello and tell us a little bit about himself and his background, we happily gave him free rein over our meal.

“The open kitchen even has a curtain of Swarovski crystals perched above the stoves, making you feel like you’re dining within a diamond.”

The service standards were, of no surprise, exceptional. Each course arrived perfectly timed and accompanied by a phalanx of waiters who simultaneously flourished the cloches open with bright eyes and polite smiles. Throughout lunch, the staff moved swiftly around, brisk walking over at the slightest indication to tend to our every request, query or concern. My warm water cup, for one, never fell below the halfway mark, and we didn’t once lack the appropriate utensil or accoutrement at any point.

For our appetiser, we sampled one of the signatures: a ‘Land and Sea Tartare’ composed of Australian Wagyu beef and Gillardeau oyster, topped with Kristal caviar and a surprisingly large sheet of gold leaf for a visual oomph. Fresh snow peas lent a distinct crunch while a ring of egg confit and parsley drops presented an orange and green ring around the beef. Ooh la la.

“Each course arrived perfectly timed and accompanied by a phalanx of waiters who simultaneously flourished the cloches open with bright eyes and polite smiles.”

The next dish was one of the standouts of the meal. Named ‘L’Œuvre de Mon Voyage à Singapore Le Laksa au Crabe Royal, Œuf Confit et Citron Sudachi’, it roughly translates to ‘The Work of My Journey to Singapore: The Laksa with King Crab, Confit Egg and Sudachi Lime’. The creation was inspired by Chef Galliot’s time in Singapore and blended with classical French flavours — laksa being one of the most iconic local dishes of the city-state.

Served in a crustacean-shaped bowl, the yellow sauce — lighter than the typical orange laksa soup — bore the same, rich flavour. Within, fresh snow crab, lobster, leeks, coriander, chopped hazelnuts and a dusting of grated lime zest came together elegantly to enhance, as opposed to overpower, each ingredient.

The next three plates were equally noteworthy: a creamy Guilvinec turbot in new Caledonia prawn consommé with ginger; Racan pigeon cooked in a cocoa pod with pumpkin purée, salsify, and natural jus; and a glorious beef cheek Parmentier with potato espuma and parmesan cheese, topped off generously with black truffle.

The pigeon in particular, which hails from Chef Galliot’s home region of Loire Valley, was first shown to us in its cocoa pod before being carved up. The presentation was exquisite, the smell sublime. For the final finish, an outrageous topping of truffles went hand-in-hand with the juicy, full-bodied flesh.

All too soon, it was time for dessert but the culinary delights continued. Courtesy of esteemed pastry chef Nicolas Lambert, we enjoyed a pre-dessert yuzu parfait-meringue concoction with basil syphons and lime jelly drops on a crispy polenta that had the lightness of being. The combination of the different textures also contrasted beautifully at first bite, to the last.

Last but not least was a Joe-inspired treat featuring coffee ice cream, walnut tuiles, laddie fingers soaked in coffee syrup and caramel drops that looked too good too eat, but one that I practically inhaled during the conversation. By the time our teas and mignardises arrived, the restaurant had emptied out before we realised.

Judging from this experience, Chef Galliot truly flexes his classically trained French muscle while blending in his own influences from working around the world. His creations are evidently thought-out and intriguing, making the entire affair memorable. Though Caprice lost a Michelin star from three to two after a change in leadership in 2014 — with Chef Galliot maintaining the two-star ranking since he’s come onboard — we predict a triumphant return to its former status sooner than later.

Where: Four Seasons Hotel Hong Kong
8 Finance St, Central, Hong Kong
Phone: +852 3196 8888

 

THE RITZ-CARLTON TAKES TO THE SEA WITH THEIR NEW YACHT COLLECTION

The Ritz-Carlton takes to the sea, making them the first luxury hotel brand to offer bespoke yacht experiences.
In collaboration with the design team, Tillberg Design of Sweden, The Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection will launch with three ultra-luxe “cruise yachts” with the first of the fleet to be launched and take sail end of 2019.

The ultra-luxe cruise yachts feature a unique design measuring 190-meters with 149 private balcony suites and two 138 square-meter duplex penthouse suites. Voyages will vary between 7-10 days; when not on scheduled voyages, the Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection will also be available for private charter. The first ship will cruise to a variety of destinations depending on the season. Confirmed locations include the Mediterranean, Northern Europe, the Caribbean and Latin America. As well, due to the intimate size of the vessel, the yacht will be able to travel to unique locations typically not accessible to large cruise ships, from Capri and Portofino to St. Barths and the old town of Cartagena. At a relaxed pace, including both overnight and daytime ports, guests will be offered a uniquely curated destination experience. Reservations will be open in May 2018, standard one-week cruises are noted to have a $5,600 price tag with each ship only accommodating up to 298 guests.

Who is going to reserve a room?

Review: Gigi Morelli

Your Golden Chariot awaits!

Declared “Asia’s Leading Luxury Train” at the World Travel Awards 2013, take this fascinating journey that spans across vast empires of the south of India’s rich historical and cultural background.

Embark on a luxurious and magical journey, alighting at some of the greatest and spectacular cities and villages that South India has to offer covering 3 states over a course of 8 days The Golden Chariot seeks to enthral you in a journey that spans through a vast majority of its incredible empires forever seeped in its rich culture, filled with spices, silk and sandalwood. Behold Temples and Palaces, experience the art and Raj architecture and marvel at unforgettable sunrises at the Point of the Bay of Bengal, the Indian Ocean and the Arabian Sea. Take a safari in the heart of the Jungle in Maharajas, visit the magnificent Royal Palaces in Mysuru, alight at Badami to tour the cave temples and Shravanabelagola to discover the Temples that have existed for centuries and finally stop at Goa to relax and enjoy this beach paradise Brimming with Royal amenities to suit and pamper every need the Golden Chariot gives you the ideal way to relive history and feel like a Sultan. Boasting 18 coaches designed to suit every need from explorer to honeymooners and business conferences to wedding ceremonies on board this train you will feel like a Raj.

As the Golden Chariot seeks to enthral you in a journey that spans through a vast majority of its incredible empires with breath-taking views take advantage of the on-board restaurant serving sumptuous Indian and Continental cuisine fit for a Royal palate accompanied by fine wines and Champagnes from around the world. And after a hard day sightseeing board the train and indulge in a relaxing experience at the Elixir the on-board Spa that offers traditional and age old Indian massages. And for those who really feel the need, the Golden Chariot also has a well-equipped gym.

Info: goldenchariottrain.com

Review: Gigi Morelli

Take a look at the most expensive suite on the Royal Caribbean’s Symphony of the Seas cruise ship

Cruise lovers are aware of the exclusive and almost dream like ‘Symphony of the Seas’, a voyage that promises you a luxury adventure like no other. The talked about cruise line is Royal Caribbean’s most expensive cruise ship to date and as assured, it is a seven-star haven that is ready to take on the waters in style. However, the part of the ship that is most fanciful is its ultra-luxe Family suite – a luxury abode for guests who like it pretty and precious!

Known to be Symphony’s most expensive suite, ‘The Ultimate Family Suite’ as it is called, lays out a superlative experience for the few who can afford it. Much as expected, it is spread across two levels of the ship and covers a gigantic 1,346 square feet of the ship’s area. Inside the suite, one is welcomed with an eclectic and warm décor, with predominant hues of red, orange, yellow and blues. In-room facilities include, a ping-pong table, an air hockey table, a slide to get from the top floor to the bottom as well as a full-size whirlpool hot tub on the balcony for a leisurely dip on a sunny day!

For a livelier feel, the luxury suite also comes with a Lego Wall, a 3-D movie room and a popcorn machine (read entertainment unlimited!). Those lazy to get it going on their own can also avail the services of a personal butler who is available round the clock. The Ultimate Family Suite can accommodate eight people at max for prices starting at $50,000. So, if you’ve got the money, hop on the Symphony with your folks and cruise along in style!

Text: Gigi Morelli

Downtown Luxury Defined by Four Seasons

As New York City’s lower Manhattan continues to develop, the Four Seasons Hotel brand has positioned itself as a permanent resident of the downtown neighborhood.  Four Seasons Hotel New York Downtown officially opened in late 2016, and has continued to build on the brand’s ultra luxury hospitality in truly outstanding style.

Four Seasons Hotel New York Downtown

Located at 27 Barclay Street, the Four Seasons property boasts 82 stories, with the first 24 floors for it’s hotel and the remainder reserved for the Four Seasons Private Residences. The hotel’s main entrance is fully attended to by doormen who graciously welcome guests into the Yabu Pushelburg designed interior. Known for designing some of the most prestigious hotel and retail interiors, the design firm mastered the art of downtown luxury while maintaining the Four Seasons’ distinguished charm.

Accommodations

A total of 187 rooms are offered at the Four Seasons Hotel New York Downtown, including 28 suites. Contrary to many New York city accommodations, the rooms at the Four Seasons are extremely spacious and drenched in sunlight. Paired with neutral tones and modern decor, these details make a stay at the property ever-more comfortable. High-tech elements include ambient lighting, smart TV’s, in-room tablets (for dining, concierge, and discovery), remote controlled blackout shades, a Bose stereo system and charging stations.

Believe us when we say no detail goes unnoticed. Every bathroom is equipped with a free standing soaking tub, perfect for unwinding after a day taking on the Big Apple. The bathroom’s luxurious marble is also accented with features such as an in-mirror TV, glass enclosed shower and heated toilet seats. After all, it’s the little things that make luxury feel personal.

Amenities

If you’d like to unwind and enjoy more of what the hotel has to offer, look no further. Starting with the breathtaking 75-foot lap pool, a solid few hours can be spent here without realizing your in the midst of one of the world’s busiest cities. Guests can enjoy an invigorating swim or choose to relax poolside on the lounge chairs. A fully equipped luxury gym is also steps away from the indoor pool, perfectly convenient to enjoy during your stay. The gym is open 24-hours and fully equipped with cardio, weights, and yoga, along with the option for personal training.

Taking relaxation a few steps further, Four Seasons Hotel New York Downtown hosts a full-service spa. Between massages, skin and nail care, get ready to be pampered to the fullest. There are an abundance of options to choose from a Therapeutic Awakening massage to a Luxury Green Caviar skin treatment. Revitalize your body and mind with a signature treatment followed by time in the relaxation room.

 

Lastly, but certainly not least, is the on-site restaurant CUT, by Wolfgang Puck. The Chef’s first Manhattan restaurant beautifully embodies his signature steakhouse ambiance with a buzzy vibe and cuisine to match.

Four Seasons Hotel New York Downtown

27 Barclay Street

New York, NY 10007

FourSeasons.com

Text: Gigi Morelli

A luxxrs Visit At Luxury Hotel In Lindos, Rhodes

  • A secluded hideaway, built into the rocky hillside
  • Private balcony terraces overlook the sea
  • Delicious gourmet food with a choice of two restaurants

LINDOS BLU

Overlooking a stunning turquoise bay and built into a rocky hillside, Lindos Blu Hotel is a tranquil oasis just outside the picturesque village of Lindos. A sophisticated, adult-only hideaway, it has a series of terraces with steps and lifts that lead down to a sandy beach, villas and maisonettes with private pools, two excellent restaurants, a penthouse sun-terrace, indoor and outdoor pools and a fabulous spa.

Each one of the rooms, suites, villas and maisonettes has the most astounding views of the sea. Sit on your balcony or terrace and feel the gentle sea breeze as you enjoy breakfast and anticipate a glorious day of sunshine and pampering at Lindos Blu Hotel. With its modern design, large, glass sliding doors ensure magical sea views from every angle throughout the property.

Discover the quaint village of Lindos and wander through its cobblestone streets. Visit the archaeological site of the acropolis, high above the village and return to Lindos Blu Hotel for a soothing massage in the spa. In the evening, enjoy a romantic dining experience in the Five Senses Restaurant and settle with a brandy in the cozy lounge Bar before retiring.

  • 70ROOMS
  • 2RESTAURANTS
  • 3FLOORS
  • Adults Only
  • Beach Pool

Small Luxury Hotel in Pietrasanta, Italy

  • 17th-century palace, located in the charming region of Versilia
  • Features Italian frescoes dating from the 1700s
  • Individually designed rooms and suites with marble bathrooms and original 20th-century artworks

Albergo Pietrasanta

A striking 17th century palazzo with a superb collection of modern art, Albergo Pietrasanta is set in the medieval town of Pietrasanta, renowned as an international centre for marble sculpting. Comprising two magnificent buildings with 18th century frescoes, the palazzo has a beautiful sunlit courtyard, a pretty breakfast conservatory and a gymnasium.

The entire place exudes a sense of comfort and tranquillity. Attractive arched windows, ceilings with hand-painted frescoes and an impressive modern art collection blend perfectly together. Each bedroom is different, classically furnished with extra touches such as vases of fresh flowers, bowls of fruit and books.

Spend some time in the romantic courtyard where attentive staff will bring you snacks and drinks under ancient palm trees. Step out to the monuments, sculptures and cafés of Pietrasanta or take a bike ride to the nearby beaches.

  • 20ROOMS
  • 1RESTAURANT
  • 3FLOORS

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